The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the primary stabilizing muscles in the knee joint. When it’s functioning correctly, the ACL helps keep your knee stable by preventing it from extending too far and rotating too much. Suppose you have had frequent knee pain or torn your ACL before. In that case, you probably know how vital this ligament is to play sports that involve pivoting and cutting movements, such as basketball, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, field hockey, rugby, and soccer. However, these high-risk activities are not the only causes of ACL injuries. Many other factors can increase your risk of tearing your ACL:
Risk Factors and Incidence
The overall ACL injury rate in the United States is estimated to be about 200,000 annually. This figure suggests that 1 in 300,000 individuals in the U.S. will sustain an ACL injury for the first time each year. ACL injuries commonly occur between the ages of 14 and 29 years, occurring in non-athletes and athletes. Those engaged in football, soccer, basketball, soccer, and skiing activities are the most susceptible to an ACL injury in the athlete group.
Female athletes are more susceptible to ACL injuries than male athletes performing similar sporting activities and training. It is estimated that female athletes are 2 to 8 times more likely to sustain ACL injuries when compared with their male counterparts (Souryal & Adams, 2009).
Many factors have been attributed to the increased susceptibility of women to ACL injuries. Females have a narrower femoral notch or the space at the bottom of the thigh bone where the ACL runs. This tight fit may cause increased friction between the ACL and femur during knee movements. Another possible cause is the greater Q angle, or the angle between the quadriceps and the patella tendon, in women. A woman’s wider pelvis partly causes a more significant rise. This increases the risk for more substantial stress and ACL injuries. Other factors include increased joint laxity, inadequate strength, and impaired neuromuscular coordination.
A complete physical assessment and a review of the mechanism of injury are conducted to diagnose an ACL injury. Imaging tests may be ordered to verify the diagnosis and determine the extent of the damage. Some techniques, such as the Lachman test, pivot shift test, and the anterior drawer test, may be performed to assess the occurrence of any knee problem.
Treatment and Management
Minor ACL injuries are highly responsive to conservative treatment methods, mainly if they are appropriately utilized and promptly given. With compliance, full mobility should be achieved within 2 to 8 weeks. Surgical reconstruction is recommended for complete ACL tears, followed by rehabilitation that may last between 6 to 12 months.
If you have sustained an ACL injury, it is best to discontinue your activity immediately. Although weight bearing is possible and knee function is not significantly diminished, it is best to completely rest the involved knee until the pain and swelling subside. Immobility during acute pain promotes the healing process, improving recovery time. During recovery, avoid exercises that hyperextend and rotate the knee.
For the first 24 to 48 hours after a knee injury, apply cold or ice packs for 15 to 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours to reduce pain and swelling. Do not apply heating pads or hot towels to the injured knee until 48 to 72 hours after the injury. Heat relaxes the muscles and relieves stiffness. Alternating ice and heat applications 48 hours after the injury may alleviate the pain.
Elevate the knee above the heart and wrap the knee with an ACE or elastic bandage to reduce and limit the swelling. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen and aspirin, may be taken to reduce knee pain and inflammation. For severe or uncontrolled pain, cortisone injections may be administered to relieve knee pain immediately.
Other Blog about ACL Injuries
This blog is part 5 of this series. If you missed parts 1 to 4, Check the following articles:
- Overview of Knee Pain (Part 1)
- Anatomy of Knee Pain (Part 2)
- Knee Injury Ligaments (Part 3)
- Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries (Part 4)
I will be putting up the next part over the next few days. If you are interested in knee pain, knee injuries, or ACL injuries, these other posts may interest you:
- ACL Injuries in Female Athletes
- 3 ACL Exercise Mistakes
- What to do about Knee Pain?
- To Leg Press or Squat if You Have an ACL Injury?
- NCAA and ACL Injuries
- Downhill Walking Good After ACL Surgery?
- Knee Injuries and Exercises with Kevin Yates
Suppose you are looking for stuff with more details on knee pain and ACL injuries. In that case, you can attend the live course called Exercise Rehabilitation of the Knee or instantly download my video presentation on Exercises for Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Overcoming Knee Injuries.